“Senator Firefly that it is very important to choose the location of a discussion. If you do so, you win the discussion,” Neveah said matter of factly as they walked calmly through the apple orchard that sat on the hill of the bustling city that the Orchard was becoming.
Randidly smiled wryly as he used Plant Dominance to detach an apple directly above his hand. It fell quickly and he snatched it out of the air. After a bite, Randidly grimaced and pushed some Aether into the apple. Before his eyes, it swelled to the size of a melon and Randidly took a tentative bite. This time, he spat it out and shook his head.
Neveah clicked her teeth together. She was wearing another skin now, one that reminded Randidly distantly of Mrs. Hamilton. “It is like giving money to a child. If you want it to be better, give it to the tree.”
“Does that mean it’s the application? Have you tried to get better at sweetening apples?” Randidly asked. Honestly, he wasn’t sure how it would be broadly applicable, but he generally wanted to improve his knowledge of how Aether worked. This large and impeccably tended orchard would be an ideal place to experiment with prolonged exposure to Aether.
Neveah just looked at him like he was an idiot. “Why when you can just push Aether into the trees? No need to do the hard thing when there is an easy way.”
Randidly kept himself from rolling his eyes but made a mental note to set aside some of the lands they would buy as Erickson Steel to farm. Besides, it might be possible to grow some interesting crops that would have industrial properties…
He shook his head, dispelling those thoughts. “Well, this is certainly an interesting place for a discussion. Let’s get down to it; in two months I am going to head to Shal’s world. Will you come with me?”
Neveah turned and regarded him. Now, she truly looked like Mrs. Hamilton, with her lips pursed and her brow furrowed. With a start, Randidly realized that she must be interacting with Mrs. Hamilton pretty frequently if she had chosen this form. He had never thought to ask, but Neveah must have a friend’s list similar to his own or even had access to it through their shared bond. It was difficult to label what they had. Perhaps he should consider its implications more directly.
But as far as he could tell if they chose to separate there would be no side effects. Their connection wasn’t affected by the twist in time, and Cohort jumping was likely just a spatial journey. A huge one, but the energy would likely travel across it without any difficulty…
“Is that you asking me to come with you, or asking whether I want to come?” Neveah asked.
Yea, she had been talking to Mrs. Hamilton. Randidly sighed and looked up at the sky. “Honestly? I don’t know. Thinking how much I’ve improved… I almost think it’s not worth my time to go back to Shal’s world. But I have friends there, and a few debts to pay. It might be rather boring. And you’ve proven that there is a lot that you can accomplish by staying here. Maybe even more than me.”
Neveah shook her head, chuckling strangely. “Hurr hurr, no, I don’t think more than you. You always look forward. You just don’t see all the people following after you.
“I want to come. I remember… a little. I wasn’t… wasn’t yet me. But also, there are people here. I have… a relationship. I think. I do not understand. But I am excited about it.” Neveah clicked her teeth again. “That makes me remember. Did you hear that one of your old relationships sent a letter to Senator Firefly?”
“Huh?” Randidly took the words and rearranged them a few times, and still couldn’t make sense of what she was saying. “Lyra and I were never-”
“No, Tessa DiCatto. She is trying to create…. Something. Senator Firefly tried to explain. Knights and Chivalry. Extra-governmental armies. I do not know. You had a relationship with her, what does it mean?”
Randidly opened his mouth and then paused. “…she wants to found Chivalric Orders? Like the knights of the round table?”
Neveah gave him a withering look that said she had no idea, which was exactly why she asked him. Her face twisted up made Randidly chuckle. Then, as they continued to stroll through the orchard, he considered her words.
Tessa. Randidly still had a lot of guilt in his heart over what he had done. But he was much younger then, and didn’t yet understand how to use his powers. Thinking about it now, he could see how that interaction with her had powerfully shaped him towards what he is today. If he had not lost his temper and hurt her, would he have poured so many points into Control? At this point, it was pretty to simple to fight at all but the highest of levels and keep from inflicting unnecessary collateral damage.
But making knightly orders? Tessa was one who always was a stickler for fairness and rules. It made a certain amount of sense that she would try and create organizations that would attempt to police the world. It also followed closely with another fact about Tessa that Randidly remembered; she almost hyperbolically distrusted people in positions of power. She strongly believed that corruption was inevitable.
So she wouldn’t just be creating a single order, but multiple ones. Randidly almost winced. That would be… chaotic if implemented incorrectly. Likely to the point of disturbing the peace of the land. And it would also create a scenario where it would be easier for seeds of twisted ideas to take root, as had happened in the case of the Unity Church.
That gave Randidly pause because he wondered whether the church would make a knightly order. At that point, Neveah spoke again.
“Thinking about Tessa,” Randidly said slowly. It truly was difficult to remember her, aside from brief bright moments of her laughter. Their time together truly seemed to brief and naive, in retrospect. Neither of them was likely to be the same person that they had been. “She wants to create ways for people to work to improve their own lives. She always talked about the government’s primary directive was to convince people to wait for the government to help them, and that was a disastrous choice. This is her giving people the tools to solve their own problems.”
Randidly paused and then continued slowly to speak. “…in addition, she was always smart in a considered way. Like, if you told her a joke, she wouldn’t get it. But that night she would look up the background and spend several hours researching it. By the following day, she would be intimately familiar with whatever was the subject of the joke, and understand why it was ironic, or shocking. So I think… she also gets the System implications. If people believe they can improve… they can improve. On that front… I think I would support them.”
Strangely, Randidly remembered Kulwort Shaw and his words. People needed something to believe in. If they lost whatever they were giving their belief to, they would just find something else.
“…you know, maybe it’s a really good idea,” Randidly said, thinking about how it might draw more people away from the Unity Church.
Neveah hummed. “I will tell Senator Firefly. Mrs. Hamilton also says that it will keep us in flux for another year or so politically. So people don’t stagnate before the Calamity arrives.”
“Mmm,” Randidly said as he gave Neveah a surreptitious glance. How much did she truly understand…? Randidly admitted to himself how limited his own knowledge was in certain ways, and she was likely similar in that regard. They were focused people. He considered asking if she knew anything about the new Zone but decided against it. From everything he heard, Franksburg had repelled a light attack and was now moving to speak with the leadership to resolve the issue. It wasn’t something he needed to be involved in.
“Mrs. Hamilton also says that the orders are about you. That’s why I ask.” Neveah said abruptly.
Randidly blinked and then smiled ruefully. Of course, he was something of a fool for not seeing that. He was walking around and impressing his will upon other organizations. If Tessa was even aware of half of what he had been up to, she would be pissed enough to spit. Randidly didn’t hold that against her, however. She was right, in an important way.
It would be very easy for a person in his position to abuse his power for his own benefit. And he likely did that, in ways he considered harmless. Like streamlining the process for Erickson Steel to become a force in the business world of Zone 1 by talking to Ghost.
But things were never simple. Just as he supported a style that might lead to abuses, Tessa allowed oversight and checks that would prefer innocent people to die from inaction than risk a dictator rising into power. It was a choice. And Randidly had already made his choice.
“…Perhaps. But don’t let that stop you from supporting it. The world needs different types of people to function.” Randidly shook his head slightly. “Well anyway, does that mean you do not wish to come to Shal’s world?”
“I wish to come. But I believe it is better I don’t,” Neveah said with a shrug.
Randidly nodded. “Alright. I’ll contact you when we are going back for that ogre.”
Whistling, Neveah nodded. “Good. I feel bored and irritable if I stay in the city too long. I miss the violence.”
They parted, and Randidly took a deep breath while running backward. Then he reached out and sent a gentle mental inquiry. Lucretia responded almost immediately.
I was wondering when we would have this discussion.